Union University conducted an assessment using a standardized instrument called the Listening Post in May, 2013. The total number of respondents, 1,603 persons, provides a high degree of confidence that the information is representative of all potential respondents. A number of different roles were represented, including students (438), faculty (187), administration (39), staff (137), board members (21), alumni (190), pastors (67), and friends of Union (104). The following is an executive summary of the final report.
Students are clearly satisfied with the school. The level of perceived energy within the school is very high. A very high level of respondents clearly agree that the school has been effective in fulfilling its mission, and that the spiritual climate at the school has improved. Respondents clearly agree that the academic/scholastic climate has improved. All these responses are very high compared to the peer group. Satisfaction and energy scores for every group are very high compared with other schools in their peer group. It is important to point out that these are perceptions of respondents and not objective measures of the academic performance of the school measured by standardized tests of student performance.
This suggests that the school is strategically positioned for transformational impact. Strategic options for the school include growth (number of students), expansion (offerings or facilities), replication, and increased external impact. It will be important in this search process to identify a leader who can capitalize upon the strengths of the organization and discern which options to pursue in realizing God's potential for the school.
An analysis of the data from the Perspectives section of the assessment reveals superior organizational functioning in several areas including collegiality, conflict management, decision-making, communication, flexibility, utilization of gifts and abilities, and shared responsibility for the workload.
In addition, appropriate workloads for faculty and administration, spiritual vitality, financial resources, and comfort with theological perspective are perceived to be well above average. There are two areas of potential opportunity, adequate physical facilities and untapped capacity of people resources within the community.
When reflecting on how they feel about the school overall, respondents tend to focus on (1) the degree to which leaders show a genuine concern for what people are thinking when decisions need to be made, (2) the degree to which leaders communicate in a way that keeps people connected and informed, and (3) the degree to which a positive, collegial atmosphere prevails among those who work at the school. The fact that the school is scoring well in these areas suggests that they are critical strengths which should be sustained and built upon.
As respondents reflect on the future, their top two priorities are (1) spiritual development and (2) academic performance of students, both typical for Christian schools. The second tier of priorities are unusually high and include (3) achieving the vision, (4) improving the financial health of the school, and (5) expanding or improving facilities.
Overall, respondents indicate that the top four leadership priorities for the next President are (1) maintaining the distinctive core values of Union University - Excellence-Driven, Christ-Centered, People-Focused, Future-Directed, (2) continuing to focus on the development of a Christian worldview in all programming, (3) prioritizing existing programs and directions and then focusing resources on those priorities, and (4) improving the efficiency of the school to make better use of existing resources. Lower priorities were indicated for accelerating the growth of the school and developing a new vision and strategic plan for the school.
An analysis of leadership priorities for the next President by group (faculty, students, administration and board members) indicates relatively modest differences in expectation.
A ranking of criteria for the next President indicates the importance of (1) the capacity to provide decisive leadership, (2) an ability to build a team and work collaboratively, and (3) an ability to recruit and retain high quality staff. The top priorities for the personal characteristics of the President are that he or she (1) brings out the best in people, (2) is outgoing and personally engaging with those in the school and community, and (3) is focused on excellence by working behind the scenes.
In conclusion, the respondents to the assessment indicate that Union University is an institution with a positive climate that is also performing at a high level organizationally. Constituent groups are exhibiting a relatively high degree of cohesiveness both in their perspectives on the present and their aspirations for the future. Strategically, the school is poised to expand its transformational impact on the lives of those within and beyond its walls.